AN all star cast can only take a film so far. Such is the case with the latest feature from Sally Potter - The Roads Not Taken - which arrives this week in cinemas.

A former Bond and Pirates of the Caribbean villain, Javier Bardem leads as Leo, with Potter’s script exploring a day in his life in New York City. Leo has dementia, we assume, but is well supported by his daughter Molly, here played by Maleficent star Elle Fanning. As Molly shepherds her father between appointments - venting at those who believe his shell has emptied within - we experience the wanderings of his mind. Most notably, the parallel imaginings of the alternative life he could have lived with ex-wife Delores (Salma Hayek). These being his roads not taken.

Laura Linney appears too but not Chris Rock, whose scenes, though filmed, have been rather curiously cut from in their entirety. At just 85 minutes in length, The Roads Not Taken is hardly a prolonged viewing experience - though occasionally feels it. Curious indeed.

Potter is the acclaimed, meditative voice behind all from Orlando to 2017 satire The Party. Here, her impetus is personal. The Roads Not Taken is dedicated to Potter’s brother Nic, who passed away in 2013, having suffered Pick’s Disease - a form of dementia. Certainly, a knowledge of this brings cruel poignancy to the misery of Leo’s isolated existence. Impressive cinematography from Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan (most recently, an Oscar nominee for his work on The Favourite) does well to contrast Leo’s present day gloom with a more colourful and engaging alternative.

It is in linking these two worlds narratively, however, that Potter falters. Tremendously acted that the film is, Potter’s writing lacks a sense for depth and the emotive opening required for us to enter as viewers. Our experience of ‘parallel Leos’ steals us from connecting with the actual man, whose past has been robbed of him. We relate more to Molly, a surrogate for Potter herself here, and one wonders if a stronger film might have focused on her.

Furthermore, Potter struggles to negotiate the misery and inevitability that permeates her tale and pair it with the poetry that has become her trademark as a storyteller. There can be no hope for Leo and romanticism will never really compare to the real world torture of that.